Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
June 11th, 2019
If you are a fan of Comedic Opera, the Scottish Opera’s turn at performing the Magic Flute is sure to please, with a powerful cast and a campy, whimsical set. The English translation was fantastic, especially during the spoken parks of the piece, which were well-moulded to the unique and pun-filled wit that English can offer.
The set design places us in a steampunk festival fever dream, with a creative use of lights clearly inspired by the thematic elements of day and night in the story itself. Particularly notable were the dazzling three ladies of the Queen, whose glittering Gothic gowns were bedecked with LED stars and topped with illuminated crowns, including a particularly splendid crescent moon headpiece. In contrast, the three boys were both eerie and endearing in their airy lightness, descending from the rafters with glowing propeller-umbrellas, like a Studio Ghibli interpretation of Victorian-era sky sprites.
Meanwhile, Papageno and his Papagena looked like they could have strolled straight of the circus tent at Boomtown, their vocal number complete with glorious mechanical steampunk robin’s egg prams and explosions of feathers. On the whole, the set pieces and costumes worked well together to emphasise the fairytale, though at points the imposing architecture of the set, for all its clockwork splendour, was confusing, and took the focus away from the characters and story.
Musically, this ensemble delivered a solid performance with some particularly stand-out characters and a flawless accompaniment by the Orchestra, conducted by Tobias Ringborg. Richard Burkhard’s Papageno was a delight to watch, and won the audiences’ hearts with his easy wit and strong voice. The Queen of the Night, played by Julia Sitkovetsky, was convincingly devious and terrifying, and dived into the much awaited “Der Hölle Rache” with all the drama it deserves – delivering all the high-notes but never straying away from the ferocity of the message.
In wonderful contrast to the dark Queen, Gemma Summerfield’s sweet Pamina was lightness incarnate. The true gem of this ensemble, her voice has an effortless purity to it that dances around the high notes with careless ease and grace. Her “Ach, ich fühl’s” was heartrendingly beautiful and had the audience totally invested in Pamina’s plight.
All-in-all, the Scottish Opera and Orchestra’s performance was wonderfully executed, doing credit to Mozart’s masterpiece. The audience laughed and sighed along with the characters, and was wowed by the magnificent spectacles brought to us by the costume and set designers. I’m excited to see what they have in store for us next.
Words: Signe Miller
Images: James Glossop